Over 150 Municipal Candidates Declare Support for Food and Farming

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Candidates connect with local stakeholders on opportunities to strengthen Ontario’s food systems, develop regional food strategies

Across Ontario, over 150 candidates for municipal councils and school boards are taking part in the Vote ON Food & Farming municipal elections campaign. As part of the campaign, council candidates have responded to surveys crafted by local food champion groups that take a solutions-based approach to issues such as regional economic resilience, farmland preservation, community food access and food literacy. Ontario is full of innovative programs and policies that address these issues, but many need council support to have a deeper impact.

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the positive responses we’ve heard from candidates,” says Carolyn Young, Program Manager at Sustain Ontario. “Many expressed surprise at discovering how much of an impact they can have on their local food systems. It shows that candidates want to take action on these issues, but more needs to be done to educate them on the impact they can have through food.”

The local campaigns are led by Local Food Champions – food policy councils, stakeholder roundtables, and non-profits active within the municipalities – and coordinated by Sustain Ontario, the Alliance for Healthy Food & Farming, a cross-sectoral alliance of over 80 member organizations. Local Food Champions sent surveys to all candidates running their upper-tier municipalities. Read candidate responses at voteonfood.ca/municipal-elections. All submitted responses are linked to from the respective municipality’s page.

“The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table is beginning the process of building a Regional Food Strategy. By engaging regional candidates with the voteonfood.ca survey, we hope to remind voters and municipal leaders that food and farming are critical to the economy, environment, and community well-being of our region,” says Phil Mount, Co-Chair of the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table, the Local Food Champion for Wellington County where over 60 candidates have participated. “We also think this survey will initiate a discussion – and identify consensus points – among community leaders that will serve as a strong foundation for a Regional Food Strategy.”

Municipal governments can be strategic innovators in food systems’ work. Council support of food and farming policies and programs can help municipalities meet so many of their goals related to vibrant local businesses, safe and inclusive communities, environmental sustainability and healthy citizens of all ages.

Leading 7 local campaigns, Local Food Champions sent surveys to all council candidates in:

  • Wellington County
  • York Region
  • Greater Sudbury
  • Counties of Frontenac (including Kingston) and Lennox and Addington
  • Haliburton County
  • Essex County
  • United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

Independent food-focused campaigns for the City of Ottawa and the Thunder Bay Census Metropolitan Area are also profiled on the Vote ON Food & Farming municipal elections hub.

In addition to the council candidate surveys, Local Food Champions have also sent the Say Yes! to Good Healthy Food in Schools survey to candidates running for school board trustee. The Say Yes! survey is part of a toolkit designed by the Ontario Edible Education Network to help school food advocates and decision-makers in local and provincial government make the case for Student Nutrition Programs, food literacy in the curriculum, and other ways of advancing school food environments.

The Say Yes! survey is also being distributed to school board candidates in Renfrew County, the City of Ottawa, and Muskoka District.

Food can be a great tool for building consensus according to food policy expert and author of The No Nonsense Guide to World Food and Food for City Building, Wayne Roberts. “In 20 years, do you still want one child in five going to school hungry or malnourished? Who would say yes to that? Do you want to see a third of all citizens, including kids, suffering from chronic diseases linked to obesity? Who would say yes? … Get your mind free of the space where the rubber hits the road, and think about what kind of city is needed. There’s amazing consensus on that.”

The Vote ON Food & Farming website is chock full of information and tools for local decision makers who want to make a difference in their communities. New resources include:

  • Why in Municipalities: A glossary of the various functions/departments managed by municipal governments, and their connections to food & farming
  • Why Food and Farming in Municipalities: A review of best practices and promising practices that demonstrate how municipal governments are well-positioned to make healthy, local food a reality for Ontarians everywhere
  • School Boards Say Yes: Links to the Say Yes! to Good Healthy Food in Schools toolkit including backgrounders, opportunity briefs, research papers and case studies

Explore the participating municipalities on the Municipal Elections hub at voteonfood.ca/municipal-elections. Candidate survey responses are linked to from their municipality’s page and have been published on a rolling basis. Candidate responses continue to be submitted and published until October 24th.

Contact

Jennifer Kucharczyk
Communications Coordinator
Email: jennifer@sustainontario.ca
Phone: 647.348.0235

Download a PDF version of this media release.

Post-Election, Will Leaders Act ON Food?

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After a fiercely competitive election, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals gained a majority in the Ontario legislature last Thursday, winning 58 seats. A surprise result for many Ontarians, the Liberals plan to re-introduce their budget on July 2nd after naming a new cabinet.

Vote ON Food

Our Vote ON Food & Farming campaign sought to inform voters about each party’s food and farming plans and to encourage MPP candidates to make food and farming a priority if elected. With over 3,400 page views and letters sent to MPP candidates in over a third of all Ontario ridings, we’re thankful for all the support we received to get the #VoteONFood message across this election.  A big thank you to all of our supporters for making this happen!

If you think that the kind of work we did through the election is important, become a member of Sustain Ontario today.

What does this mean for food and farming in Ontario?

As the Liberals picked up most of their seats in the Greater Toronto Area and Progressive Conservatives won mostly rural ridings, some see the Liberal win as driving a deeper rural/urban divide in the province.

However, having introduced several food and farming policies in their pre-election budget and election platform, including a $400 million food processing fund and farmland protection plan, the party seems to be looking beyond its urban core.

What you can do now

The governing party provided a plan for each of our eleven Platform Report questions, including plans for economy, health, environment, education, and community.  Now it’s time to work together to make sure that those ideas help to move forward healthy food and farming in Ontario.

Contact your MPPs! Whether you met your MPP at an all-candidates debate, sent a Vote ON Food letter to your candidates, or are reaching out for the first time, contact your MPP and ask if they will make food and farming a priority this term.  Those handy resources are still useful post-election!

Fall municipal elections           

Following the provincial election, Sustain Ontario and its members are preparing for the municipal elections that will take place across Ontario in October. To see how you can get involved, contact jamelia@sustainontario.ca.

NFU Asks Voters to Examine Candidates Stances on Agricultural Issues

Guest blog by the National Farmers Union- Ontario

Spring Election 2014

The National Farmers Union – Ontario is an accredited farm organization that represents family farmers across Ontario. The NFU-O believes that agriculture should be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable and that food production should lead to enriched soils, a more beautiful countryside, thriving rural communities and biodiverse natural ecosystems.

With this purpose in mind, this election, voters are being asked to carefully review where their candidates stand regarding agricultural matters. Issues ranging from how Ontario’s farmland and source water will be protected, to cost-sharing when it comes to Risk Management Programs are of high priority.

As Ontarians prepare to elect a leader this week, voters need to examine candidates’ stances on these important agricultural issues:

  • Farmland and source water protection: Legislation to permanently protect Ontario’s Class One farmland and source water regions will ensure that in Ontario we can continue to farm and live within healthy communities.
  • Local food: Ontarians need access to food that is healthy and safe. The government must provide support for smaller distribution channels and regional food-processing, including abattoirs and butchers.
  • Rural Infrastructure: Support for economic development in rural Ontario is much needed, including continued provincial transfer payments to municipalities.
  • Neonicotinoids: The NFU-O has been calling for a five-year moratorium on neonicotinoids. Pollinators must be protected to insure that Ontarians have access to food.
  • Hydro rates: The increase in hydro rates affects all of Ontario, but farmers are not able to take advantage of time-of-use rates. Hydro rates need to be affordable to all Ontarians.
  • Risk Management Programs: The Ontario government needs to provide their portion of the funding to the cost-shared Risk Management Programs. Ontario has refused to contribute their share to all RMPs because of a disagreement with the federal government over the structure of Ontario’s beef cattle support.  The present Ontario government has been waiting out the stalemate while Ontario farmers remain in limbo.
  • Canadian EU Trade Agreement: There will be significant costs for this province if the federal government signs CETA. The province needs to take a cautious approach to CETA.

Agriculture brings us much more than the food on our tables – it sustains rural communities by providing employment and jobs in the agricultural sector and beyond, providing communities with a population that supports the areas in which they live, attending and participating in churches, schools, community centres and organizations.

For more information about NFU-O’s 2014 Spring Election issues and how you can get involved, you can visit their website.

Green Prosperity releases Scorecard

Guest blog from GREEN PROSPERITY:

Parties missing link between environment and economy, survey shows

Toronto, ON – The health of our environment underlies many of the concerns being debated in the Ontario provincial election, from future job growth to health care throughout our province.

But no major party has fully embraced the connection between a healthy environment, a healthy economy and healthy people, according to a survey of party positions undertaken by 20 of Ontario’s leading environmental non-profit organizations.

“From the alarming decline in pollinators to the uncoordinated rush to develop numerous mines and other resource projects in one of our last great wilderness areas, there are big issues at stake in this election,” says Tim Gray of  Environmental Defence.

“We need a clear plan to build a healthy and prosperous province and a strong green economy.  That’s the challenge of our time and we want to give voters the information they need to understand where the parties stand on that question,” says Anna Baggio of CPAWS Wildlands League.

The Ontario Environmental Priorities Initiative sent each of the four major parties a questionnaire on environmental issues covering everything from transit funding and urban planning to endangered species and biodiversity protection.

The questionnaire also covered energy conservation and party views on shutting down the aging Pickering nuclear station; putting a price on carbon to address climate change and encouraging the development of green infrastructure like green roofs and urban forests to make our communities more climate resilient; and how to ensure more than temporary boom-and-bust development in the Ring of Fire in Ontario’s Far North.

It also asked the parties if they would force companies to disclose potentially cancer causing ingredients in consumer products and ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been strongly linked to an alarming decline in pollinators such as bees.

The questionnaire and the party platform documents were used to assess whether the party’s policies would meet the objectives of the eight environmental priorities jointly developed by the 20 organizations involved in the Ontario’s Environmental Priorities initiative. This assessment can be found at www.greenprosperity.ca.

The groups issuing this release are: Canadian Physicians for the Environment, Citizens Environment Alliance, Canadian Environmental Law Association, CPAWS Wildlands League, David Suzuki Foundation,  Earthroots,  Ecojustice,  Environment North, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, Greenpeace,   LEAF, Local Food Plus, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Ontario, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Sustain Ontario, Wildlife Preservation Canada

For more information, or media requests, please contact:

Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-3951 ext. 258; 416-570-2878 (cell);ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca

2014 Ontario Elections Debate: Where does food and farming fit in?

Ethics, energy, job creation, managing deficit, transportation and education were the publics’ chosen top matters of concern for the much anticipated Ontario leaders’ live debate last week. With the first question related to government ethics and trustworthiness, setting the tone for a considerable portion of the evening. This, coupled with the high concern for job creation seemed to take centre stage during the debate. Six of the most popular questions were chosen, according to Steve Paikin, from over 1000 that were submitted by Ontarians. Over the duration of the 90 minute televised broadcast, these video recorded questions were played individually, each followed by the leaders’ responses. Given the nature of the questions, however, other than a brief mention about the Student Nutrition Program under the broader topic of education there was no real opportunity to delve further into the issues contained within the agri-food sector. In his blog, Mike Schreiner also delivered what would have been his responses to those same questions, had he been a part of the debate. It too seemed to be a bit lean on specific matters regarding agriculture.

While it may be argued that generally, many of the responses by the leaders were not exhaustive when it came to specifics; this still brings an important thought to mind. Given that these six questions were supposed to represent the most pertinent concerns of Ontarians, why weren’t agriculture and rural issues a more prominent feature in the responses? It is quite possible that Paikin could be saving those specific questions for a debate later on, yet disputably there were still topics raised that a greater investment in the agri-food industry could help to solve.

It’s agreed that what was talked about in the debate has realistic impact on the everyday lives of Ontarians. That said, at least two of these concerns– job creation and education, can be directly mitigated by implementing better food and farming policies in the province. This view is built on a number of premises, perhaps, one of the most relevant being that, food and farming is now the #1 employer in Ontario.

More specifically…

  • In Ontario, the agri-food industry contributes $33 billion to the provincial economy every year, provides 700,000 jobs and pays $7 billion in wages.
  • Ontario’s food and beverage processing sector generated over $39 billion in 2011 and providing over 125,000 direct jobs.
  • By re-allocating $10 of Ontarian’s weekly grocery bill to locally grown and produced food, Ontario food sales would increase by $2.4 billion and create 10,000 jobs.

Then there’s education…

  • Toronto’s Feeding Our Future evaluation of Student Nutrition Programs found that 61% of Grade 7 and 8 students who ate a morning meal on most days achieved or exceeded the provincial standard (levels 3 & 4) in reading as opposed to 50% of those who ate a morning meal two or less times per week

So then, why was this not brought up during the discussions involving job creation, the economy and children’s education? It appears that despite the evidence that the agriculture and food industries are notable drivers that can alleviate these problems, there’s still limited faith in the sector’s ability to do so. This restricted belief quite likely stems from not always seeing the extent to which food is inter-connected with these other pertinent areas. The challenge then is in sensitizing Ontarians even more about what voting on food and farming really means — that a vote on food is, in fact, a vote on greater job creation and an improved economy. It’s a vote on a future of healthy children who can achieve more at school and who are less likely to develop diet-related illnesses later on in life.  Once this is recognized as a legitimate means to solving some of our most fundamental problems, the benefits to the province will be long lasting.

It is commendable that the Local Food Act has been supported by all parties, which is a step in the right direction, but room still exists for even greater inclusion of food and farming related solutions. It is hoped that in future discussions during this election season, agri-food associated solutions will be recognized as a vital contributor towards reducing unemployment rates and improving the economy, health, education and lifestyles for all the people of Ontario.